Sunday, February 15, 2009

Jimmy Carter, Book-signing Machine

So, last weekend Janice saw a notice that former president Jimmy Carter would be in town on Wednesday (Feb. 11th), doing a signing at the University Bookstore. Going to their website to see what it said about the event, we learned that he would only sign for people who had a 'signing ticket', which were being given out with each purchase of his new book. Showing up on the night of the event and producing a signing ticket meant you could get him to sign the new book, plus one of his previous books. He wouldn't be giving a talk, nor would there be a question-and-answer session (no doubt because of all the character assassination he's been ambushed with since his previous book). But he would be doing a reading from his new book, followed by the signing.

This sounded interesting. I'd been impressed by his previous book, PALESTINE: PEACE NOT APARTHEID, though I didn't agree with his proposed solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Since it seemed likely that tickets would sell out for the event, especially since it was being held in the University Bookstore (with its relatively small readings/signings area), I went down to the U-district on Monday and bought the book (WE CAN HAVE PEACE IN THE HOLY LAND) and got my signing ticket. And, for good measure, I picked up PEACE NOT APARTHEID, so that it could be the 'backlist' title we got signed.

Wednesday we made sure to get up to the U-district in plenty of time, even allowing for traffic. The first sign we had that this was an unusual event was when we walked past the motorcade (five big black cars long), which was parked in the alley behind the bookstore. The next was the huge crowd of people inside, more than I've ever seen packed into the store before. It turned out the signing was already underway, about twenty minutes before it was scheduled to start. We'd half-expected that it'd be moved to another, larger venue, as with Alan Lee talk a few years back (which shifted across street to the Methodist Church). But no, it turned out the bookstore people --or perhaps it was Carter's people-- had things down to a science. Get in line here, check your bags here (nothing hand-held allowed but a book, not even a wallet or cell-phone), and go up the stairs. They had Mr. Carter behind a table, with the line passing in front of it behind a roped-off area. I showed our signing ticket and handed over the books to the nice lady, who opened them to the title page and passed them to a guy who passed them to Mr. Carter. He signed each person's book, looking up to make eye contact as he did so, then the guy on the other side took them and handed them to the person who handed them back to us. Then we went back downstairs again, collected our satchels, and walked out -- all done at about five minutes after the event was supposed to start.

All this was v. different from the one previous time I'd seen Mr. Carter, when he was doing a book signing in Milwaukee's Harry W. Schwartz bookstore in the Iron Block building (circa 1991?), where each person in line actually got to talk to him v. briefly as he signed (in my case, I said I hope he was having a pleasant stay in Milwaukee; he thanked me and said he was). When I'd been at the bookstore on Monday a ran into the person who coordinates a lot of their book-signing events and got to enjoy a chat with him for a bit; he told me Mr. Carter was indefatigable and would stay as long as it took to sign everybody's book. Given his age (84), I'd wondered at that. But now, seeing him in action, I can well believe it.

As for the book itself, this has been such a busy week that I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but I'm looking forward to seeing how it compares with the earlier one. From appearances he's made this past week on news programs, I suspect I still won't support his thesis, but it'll be interesting to see the case he can make for it. In any case, it looks to be a quick read, and I know from his last one that it'll be v. straightforward in its presentation, leaving no doubt about what he thinks can, or should be done. We'll see.


current reading: TWILIGHT by Stephenie Meyer [2005], TOUR DE LOVECRAFT by Kenneth Hite [2008]

UPDATE: (2/17-09)
And, just today, I saw that an anti-Carter book has already come out from Mike Evans, a sort of latter-day Hal Lindsay. The book itself is of less interest to me than the marketing campaign: it was featured in the current PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY on the front cover, the back cover (full-page ad), and both the front and back inside covers, with a bullet point boasting about the million-dollar ad campaign to push the book. Wow.

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